Ranking the top 25 teams of the NFL's modern era: Two Super Bowl losers make the cut


Before leaving Benny Rodriguez’s room, fictional Babe Ruth offered a piece of advice to the aspiring young baseball player in the 1993 hit movie “The Sandlot.” 

“Remember kid, there’s heroes and there’s legends: Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” 

The Babe’s quote can also apply to the NFL. While there have been many championship teams, there are only a handful of champions that have reached the status of legendary. These teams continue to live on through the memory of the fans who feverishly watched their team’s championship quest. A few of these teams actually crossed over to pop culture, as the ’85 Bears are remembered just as much for their iconic “Super Bowl Shuffle” as they are for Buddy Ryan’s devastating “46” defense. 

With 58 Super Bowls in the books, here is a rundown of the 25 greatest teams of the Super Bowl era. The criteria used when creating this list included the team’s overall record, Hall of Fame representation, coaching, dominance vs. the field, quality of opponents, and offensive/defensive standings (largely points scored and points allowed). 

Honorable mention: 2005 Steelers

  • 15-5 (including playoffs) 
  • Super Bowl XL champions 
  • Won eight straight games after 7-5 start 
  • First sixth seed to win the Super Bowl
  • First team to win three straight road playoff games 

Fresh off of a 15-1 regular season, the ’05 Steelers started slow before finding their stride at the perfect time. Pittsburgh’s run started with a 21-3 win over the then 9-2 Bears that featured the final 100-yard game of Jerome Bettis’ Hall of Fame career. In the playoffs, the Steelers defeated the AFC’s top-three seeds before defeating the NFC’s top seed (the Seahawks) in the Super Bowl. 

Pittsburgh’s first championship in 26 years was spearheaded by a defense that featured future Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu. The Steelers’ also enjoyed an X-factor of sorts in receiver Antwaan Randle El, a former college quarterback who threw the game-clinching touchdown pass to teammate Hines Ward in the Super Bowl. 

25. 1990 Buffalo Bills 

  • 15-4 overall record 
  • Featured top-ranked scoring offense and sixth-ranked scoring defense 

Buffalo’s first of four consecutive Super Bowl teams was its best. The Bills’ high-octane offense — led by Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly — was nearly unstoppable entering Super Bowl XXV; they scored 44 points against the Dolphins and put 51 on the Raiders in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

It turned out that the only way to stop Buffalo’s offense was by keeping it off the field, which is what the Giants did in the Super Bowl. But despite having the ball for less than 20 minutes, the Bills still managed to score 19 points on the strength of Thurman Thomas’ 190 total yards. Buffalo lost the game, however, on a missed field goal with just seconds left on the clock. 

24. 1991 Washington 

  • 17-2 overall record 
  • Super Bowl XXVI champions 
  • Featured top-ranked scoring offense and second-ranked scoring defense 

Joe Gibbs became the first coach in NFL history to win three Super Bowls with three different starting quarterbacks. His quarterback this time around, Mark Rypien, took home Super Bowl MVP honors after throwing for 291 yards and a pair of scores in Washington’s 37-24 win over Buffalo. 

Rypien took full advantage of an offense that featured an elite offensive line and two 1,000-yard receivers in Art Monk and Gary Clark. Defensively, Washington posted three shutouts during the regular season and held the Falcons and Lions to a combined 17 points in its first two playoff games. Washington picked off Jim Kelly four times in the Super Bowl and held league MVP Thurman Thomas to 13 yards on 10 carries. 

23. 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

  • 15-5 overall record (including playoffs) 
  • Won eight straight games after 7-5 start 
  • Featured third-ranked scoring offense and eighth-ranked scoring defense 
  • Held defending champion Chiefs to nine points in Super Bowl LV 

Tampa Bay largely cracked this list because of three things: Tom Brady, a talented supporting cast on offense and a defense that dominated Patrick Mahomes and the rest of the Chiefs’ talented offense in the Super Bowl. Brady and Co. also got brownie points for their upset win over league MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Lambeau Field in the NFC Championship Game. 

Brady was his usual efficient self against the Chiefs, winning a record fifth Super Bowl MVP after throwing three touchdowns and completing 72.4 percent of his passes. 

22. 1982 Washington 

  • 12-1 overall record 
  • Super Bowl XVII champions 
  • Featured top-ranked scoring defense and league MVP Mark Moseley 

Washington lost just once during the strike-shortened ’82 season before out-scoring their four playoff opponents by a combined total of 110-48. Along with having the only kicker to ever win league MVP, Washington’s first championship run included a brilliant effort from running back John Riggins. Riggins ran for a still-standing playoff record 610 yards that included a then-record 166-yard performance in Super Bowl XLVII. Riggins’ 38 carries in that game is still a Super Bowl record. 

Defensively, Washington allowed just five touchdowns in four playoff games. It did not allow a single completed pass during the second half of its Super Bowl win over the Dolphins. 

21. 2013 Seattle Seahawks

  • 16-3 overall record (including playoffs) 
  • Super Bowl XLVIII champions
  • Held final 8 opponents to an average of 11.5 points per game 
  • Finished 4th in NFL in rushing and 1st in pass defense 

An extremely balanced team, Seattle dominated a talented Broncos team on football’s biggest stage. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch led an offense that was top 10 in most major categories. The Seahawks’ defense, regarded as one of the league’s best since the start of the millennium, was led by a dominant secondary that featured Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Cam Chancellor. 

In the playoffs, Seattle’s defense held a Drew Brees-led offense to a mere 15 points. They then held the defending NFC champion 49ers to just 17 points in the conference title game. But those performances paled in comparison to what they did in Super Bowl XLVIII. The Seahawks’ defense scored as many touchdowns as Denver’s record-setting offense and didn’t allow a Broncos’ score until the game was well out of hand. Appropriately, a member of Seattle’s defense, linebacker Malcolm Smith, was named Super Bowl MVP. 

20. 1983 Los Angeles Raiders 

  • 15-4 record (including playoffs) 
  • Super Bowl XVIII champions 
  • Featured third-ranked scoring offense
  • Out-scored playoff opponents 106-33

Two of the Raiders’ losses came against Seattle, the team Los Angeles dismantled, 30-14, in the AFC Championship Game. In the Super Bowl two weeks later, the Raiders posted a shocking 38-9 win over a Washington team that won the previous year’s Super Bowl and scored a then-record 541 points during the regular season. 

Washington had no answer for running back Marcus Allen and the Raiders’ formidable cornerback duo of Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes. Allen ran for 191 yards and two touchdowns that included his dazzling 74-yard score that saw him reverse field before finding pay dirt. Haynes and Hayes were so dominant that Washington wideouts Charlie Brown and Art Monk did not catch a single pass in the first half. 

19. 1999 St. Louis Rams 

  • 16-3 overall record (including playoffs)
  • Super Bowl XXXIV champions 
  • Scored 526 points (a then-NFL record) 
  • Featured league MVP Kurt Warner 

The ’99 Rams are the enduring NFL Cinderella story. A former grocery store clerk, Warner went from relative unknown to bona fide NFL star in a matter of weeks. Warner was the conductor of the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” offense that sprinted past opposing defenses all season. The Rams’ majestic offense also featured running back Marshall Faulk (who that season became the second player to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season), receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, and Hall of Fame left tackle Orlando Pace. 

The Rams’ offense was great, but one reason why they made the cut was due to their underrated defense — a unit that held the Buccaneers to just six points in the NFC Championship Game. Linebacker Mike Jones’ tackle on Kevin Dyson one yard short of the end zone completed the Rams’ thrilling 23-16 win over the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. 

18. 1971 Dallas Cowboys 

  • 14-3 record (including playoffs) 
  • Super Bowl VI champions 
  • Roster featured 10 future Hall of Famers 
  • Ranked first in scoring offense and seventh in scoring defense 
  • Held Dolphins to three points in Super Bowl VI 

Here’s a crazy stat about the Cowboys’ first Super Bowl championship team: they went 13-0 with Roger Staubach as their starting quarterback. Staubach, who replaced Craig Morton as the team’s longterm starter midway through the season, jump-started his Hall of Fame career by winning MVP honors following Dallas’ Super Bowl win over a Dolphins team that would win the next two Super Bowls. He had plenty of help that day from running backs Duane Thomas and Walt Garrison, who ran for a combined 169 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries. 

Dallas’ “Doomsday” defense was dominant all year and especially in Super Bowl VI. Hall of Fame defensive tackle Bob Lilly set a still-standing Super Bowl record that day when he sacked Bob Griese for a 29-yard loss. 

17. 2006 Indianapolis Colts

  • 15-4 record (including playoffs) 
  • Super Bowl XLI champions 
  • Won four playoff games while holding first two playoff opponents to 14 total points 
  • Offense featured five Pro Bowlers and Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison 

On paper, the the ’05 Colts were the better team. But that team fell short against the Steelers in the divisional round, partly because of their kicker. The ’06 Colts fixed that by acquiring Adam Vinatieri, arguably the greatest kicker in league history. The former Patriot made five field goals in the Colts’ 15-6 playoff win over Baltimore. A week later, he helped his new team defeat his old one as the Colts overcame a 21-3 deficit against New England.

The Colts’ complete team balance was on display in the Super Bowl. Playing in less than ideal conditions, Indianapolis leaned on running backs Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai, who combined who tally 264 total yards on 51 touches. Manning threw a key touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne, while the Colts’ defense, which included pass rusher Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders, sealed the 29-17 win over Chicago with a pick-six. 

16. 1975 Steelers 

  • 15-2 record (including playoffs) 
  • Super Bowl X champions 
  • Featured fifth-ranked scoring offense and second-ranked scoring defense 

Many people believe that this is the best of the Steelers’ six Super Bowl champions. Fresh off of their first Super Bowl win, the ’75 Steelers benefitted by Terry Bradshaw’s coming of age. Bradshaw drastically cut back on his mistakes that season and made a bevy of big throws to help Pittsburgh mount four unanswered scores in Super Bowl X. 

Along with Bradshaw, Lynn Swann also had a breakout season in ’75 that culminated with his MVP performance in Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl win over Dallas. Swann’s 53-yard catch is arguably the greatest in NFL history, while his 61-yard touchdown grab later in the game proved to be the winning score. 

15. Green Bay 1996 Packers 

  • 16-3 record (including playoffs) 
  • Super Bowl XXXI champions 
  • Led NFL in scoring offense and defense 
  • Featured league MVP Brett Favre 

Favre was the headliner, but the ’96 Packers also featured two future Hall of Famers on defense in pass rusher Reggie White and safety LeRoy Butler. Green Bay’s secret weapon was Desmond Howard, who that season put together one of the greatest seasons ever for a returner. Howard had three punt returns for scores during the regular season and another during Green Bay’s divisional round playoff win over the 49ers. 

Howard broke Super Bowl XXXI open with his 99-yard kickoff return for a score after the Patriots had just made it a six-point game. He became the first special teams player to win Super Bowl honors after recording a Super Bowl record 244 return yards. 

14. 1989 San Francisco 49ers 

  • 17-2 overall record (including playoffs) 
  • Super Bowl XXIV champions 
  • Featured first-ranked scoring offense and third-ranked scoring defense 
  • Out-scored playoff opponents 126-26 

A year after winning it all after a 6-5 start, the ’89 49ers started fast and finished strong. They outscored their opponents in the regular season by nearly 200 points. Their two losses were by a combined five points. 

The 49ers solidified their place as an all-time great dynasty in the playoffs. They blew out Minnesota and Los Angeles in the first two rounds before recording the greatest margin of victory (45 points) over the Broncos in the Super Bowl. The 49ers’ 55 points that day is still a Super Bowl record. 

13. 1973 Miami Dolphins 

  • 15-2 overall record (including playoffs) 
  • Super Bowl VIII champions 
  • Featured fifth-ranked scoring offense and top-ranked scoring defense 
  • Outscored playoff opponents 85-33

While they didn’t go undefeated like the ’72 Dolphins did, Miami’s ’73 squad was pretty close. Unlike the ’72 team that won three tightly-contested playoff games, the ’73 Dolphins won their three playoff games by an average margin of 17.3 points. In Super Bowl VIII, Miami rolled to a 24-0 lead before coasting to a 17-point win over the Vikings. Bob Griese set a Super Bowl record for fewest pass attempts by a starting quarterback. He completed six of his seven attempts that included a 27-yard completion to Paul Warfield that set up Miami’s final score. 

12. 2019 Kansas City Chiefs

  • 15-4 record (including playoffs) 
  • Super Bowl LIV champions 
  • First team to overcome 10-point deficits in three consecutive playoff games 

After a slow start, the Chiefs closed out the season on an eight-game winning streak, capped off by their 31-20 win over the 49ers in the Super Bowl. When Kansas City found its momentum, its offense was almost unstoppable during that run. The Chiefs scored 51 unanswered points in their divisional round playoff win over the Texans after trailing 24-0. Trailing 20-10 late in the Super Bowl, the Chiefs scored three touchdowns in five minutes to claim the franchise’s first title in 50 years. 

Patrick Mahomes led the offense while becoming the first player to win league and Super Bowl MVP honors before his 25th birthday. He was complemented by tight end Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, who both made big plays down the stretch against the 49ers. Kansas City’s defense was bolstered by safety Tyrann Mathieu, whose play helped the Chiefs find their stride during the second half of the season. 

11. 1986 New York Giants 

  • 17-2 overall record (including playoffs)
  • Defeated the next two Super Bowl champions in the playoffs by a combined score of 66-3 
  • Featured DPOY Lawrence Taylor 

Bill Parcells’ first of two Super Bowl championship teams in New York lost two games by a combined eight points in 1986. The Giants were led by a hard-hitting defense that featured Hall of Fame pass rusher Lawrence Taylor and Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson. The Giants’ offense was led by quarterback Phil Simms, who enjoyed a Super Bowl for the ages against the Broncos. Along with throwing for 268 yards and three touchdowns, Simms completed 88% of his passes to lead the Giants to a 39-20 win over Denver in Super Bowl XXI. 

The Giants’ Super Bowl win was impressive, but what really sticks out is the Giants’ 49-3 romp of the 49ers (the team that won four Super Bowls during the decade) in the divisional round. New York then shut out Washington 17-0 before carrying then-defensive coordinator Bill Belichick off the field. 

  • 14-2 overall record (including playoffs)
  • Featured 11 Hall of Fame players
  • Became the first team to be crowed NFL and Super Bowl champions 

Fresh off of winning Vince Lombardi’s third title in 1965, the ’66 Packers made history by becoming the first Super Bowl champion. Two weeks after beating the Cowboys in one of the most thrilling championship games in NFL history, the Packers defeated a talented Chiefs team that three years later would win the final game played before the AFL-NFL merger. 

On offense, the Packers’ bread and butter was a powerful sweep that complemented the passing of Bart Starr, the MVP of the first two Super Bowls. Green Bay’s defense — given modern technology — would still dominate in today’s NFL. The defense (a unit that featured six Hall of Fame players) allowed just 11.6 points per game that season. Safety Willie Wood’s interception of Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson turned a competitive game into a 35-10 Packers rout of the Chiefs in Super Bowl I. 

9. 2016 New England Patriots 

  • 17-2 record (including playoffs) 
  • Finished 3rd in NFL in scoring and 1st in points allowed
  • Outscored playoff opponents 104-61
  • Greatest comeback in Super Bowl history 

The ’07 squad may be their best team, but the ’16 team may very well be the Patriots’ best championship team of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era. This was a balanced squad that had the league’s greatest quarterback at perhaps his most driven point, as he was forced to watch the first quarter of the season due to a suspension. The Patriots went 3-1 without Brady, then proceeded to go 14-1 with him back under center. 

New England blew past the Texans and Steelers in the AFC playoffs before finding themselves on the wrong side of a lopsided score against the Falcons in Super Bowl LI. But in a moment that would define their dynasty, the Patriots overcame a 28-3 deficit to win the first Super Bowl that was decided in overtime. Brady was his masterful self during the comeback, but it was a team effort. Brady’s skill position teammates, specifically Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and James White, made a bevy of big plays during the comeback. The defense also came up with several critical plays, none bigger than Dont’a Hightower’s strip-sack of Matt Ryan that jumpstarted the comeback. 

8. 2007 New England Patriots 

  • 18-0 start 
  • Season point differential (+315) larger than total points allowed (274)
  • Led by league MVP Tom Brady (50 TD passes) and HOF WR Randy Moss (23 TD rec.) 

You can’t have a non-championship season better than this one. In fact, the only thing the ’07 Patriots didn’t do was hoist the Lombardi Trophy. The only undefeated team during the NFL’s 16-game regular season format, the Patriots’ average margin of victory during the season was a gaudy 19.7 points. Brady set an NFL record for TD passes, while Moss’ single season record for TD receptions remains the all-time mark. 

The defense included Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau, two-time All-Pro safety Rodney Harrison, and 2007 Pro Bowlers Vince Wilfork, Mike Vrabel, and Asante Samuel. The unit held 12 of their opponents to under 20 points, including their opponent in Super Bowl XLII: the New York Giants. The Giants’ pressure of Brady, along with a miracle helmet catch, prevented the Patriots from completing the greatest season in league annals. 

7. 1998 Denver Broncos 

  • 17-2 overall record (including playoffs)
  • Featured HOF QB John Elway and HOF RB/NFL MVP Terrell Davis 
  • Outscored their three playoff opponents 95-32 

Denver successfully defended its Super Bowl XXXII championship by running away from the field in 1998. The Broncos won their first 13 games before coasting to a 14-2 finish. Davis (who rushed for 2,008 yards that season) was the centerpiece of an offense that also featured Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe, and two 1,000-yard receivers in Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey. The Broncos’ high-scoring offense was complemented by an aggressive defense that allowed just two touchdowns during the postseason. 

The Broncos forced four turnovers in their 34-19 win over the Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII, as Elway’s 336 yards and two touchdowns gave him MVP honors in his final game. The ’98 Broncos would have been higher had they been given the chance to defeat the Vikings (who had gone 15-1 during the season before being upset by Atlanta in the NFC title game) in the Super Bowl. 

6. 1976 Oakland Raiders 

  • 16-1 overall record (including playoffs)
  • Featured seven HOF players and HOF coach John Madden 
  • Defeated the defending two-time champion Steelers in the AFC title game 

The Raiders wore the battle scars of three consecutive losses in the AFC Championship Game. John Madden’s battle-hardened team wouldn’t be denied in ’76, despite being the league’s most penalized team. Led by Ken Stabler, a talented receiving corps and a dominant offensive line that featured Hall of Famers Gene Upshaw and Art Shell, the Raiders ran over the two-time defending champion Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, 24-7. 

In Super Bowl XI, Oakland rushed for a then-Super Bowl record 266 yards against the Vikings’ famed “Purple People Eater” defensive line. The Raiders’ intimidating defense put the exclamation point on Oakland’s 32-14 win after Willie Brown scored on a 75-yard pick-six. The Raiders’ first championship may have cracked the top five if not for needing a favorable call against the Patriots in the divisional round, along with the fact that they defeated a Steelers team that played without 1,000-yard running backs Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier. 

5. 1992 Cowboys 

  • 16-3 overall record (including playoffs)
  • Featured “The Triplets” and the “Great Wall of Dallas” offensive line 
  • Three playoff wins by a combined score of 116-47

Three years after going 1-15, Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones reaped the fruit of their labor in 1992. Johnson parlayed the greatest trade in NFL history into a loaded Cowboys roster that would win three Super Bowls in a four-year span. The ’92 Cowboys, the team’s first championship squad of the ’90s, was the best of the bunch. After winning an NFC East division that included the previous two Super Bowl champions, the Cowboys defeated a talented Eagles team in the divisional round before taking down league MVP Steve Young and the rest of the 49ers at Candlestick Park. 

In Super Bowl XXVII, Troy Aikman bewildered the Bills’ defense to the tune of 273 yards and four touchdown passes. Two of Aikman’s touchdowns were caught by Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin, while Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith rushed for 108 yards while becoming the first rushing champion to win the Super Bowl. Dallas’ often overlooked defense, led by Hall of Fame pass rusher Charles Haley, forced nine turnovers while scoring two touchdowns in the Cowboys’ 52-17 romp. 

4. 1984 San Francisco 49ers 

  • 18-1 record (including playoffs)
  • Defeated the next two Super Bowl champions in the playoffs by a combined score of 44-10
  • Shut out Dan Marino and the Dolphins’ prolific offense during the second half of Super Bowl XIX 

Forgive the 49ers for feeling disrespected in the lead up to Super Bowl XIX. Despite winning 15 regular-season games, fielding the league’s top-ranked defense and second-ranked offense and defeating the Giants (21-10) and Bears (23-0) in the playoffs, the 49ers were largely overshadowed by the Dolphins and quarterback Dan Marino, who shattered the league’s single-season passing record en route to an MVP season. Instead of firing off bulletin board material, the 49ers took their frustrations out on the Dolphins. San Francisco’s defense — a unit that featured Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott and three other Pro Bowlers in the secondary — picked off Marino twice in the second half. 

While Marino was running for his life, Montana raced into the history books. Along with running for more yards (59) than any previous quarterback in the Super Bowl, Montana threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns. The 49ers’ 38-16 win is a testament to the overall dominance of that team, a team that is often overlooked in the annals of Super Bowl championship teams. 

3. 1985 Chicago Bears 

  • 18-1 overall record (including playoffs)
  • Featured Buddy Ryan’s famed “46” defense 
  • Allowed 10 total points in three playoff games 

Unlike the ’84 49ers, there is no lack of fanfare surrounding arguably the most celebrated previous Super Bowl champion. The ’85 Bears were not only Chicago royalty, they temporarily stole the Cowboys’ tag line as “America’s Team” during their one-year run through the NFL. After a slow start, Ryan’s defense went on a roll after holding Montana and the 49ers to just 10 points in Week 6. Over the next 13 games, Chicago’s defense tallied four shutouts and held all but one opponent to 17 points or less. They also sent an unofficial record for quarterback knockouts while solidifying their status as possibly the most intimidating defense in league history. 

Fittingly, defensive end Richard Dent won Super Bowl MVP honors after being part of a Bears defense that forced six turnovers while holding the Patriots to a Super Bowl-low seven rushing yards. Quarterback Jim McMahon led the Bears on seven scoring drives, as Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton won his first and only Super Bowl. The Bears may have finished higher on this list had they faced Marino and the Dolphins — the only team that defeated them during the regular season — in a Super Bowl rematch. 

2. 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers 

  • 17-2 overall record (including playoffs)
  • Featured 10 Hall of Fame players 
  • Dethroned the Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII 

Before the ’78 season began, the league’s Competition Committee enforced rules that encouraged higher scoring and less contact from defensive backs. Many suspected that the new rules (one was unofficially named in honor of Steelers cornerback Mel Blount) were put in place to slow down the Steelers, who had won back-to-back titles earlier in the decade.

 Instead, the Steelers would go on to win the next two Super Bowls. Coach Chuck Noll unleashed quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who won league and Super Bowl MVP honors. In the playoffs, Pittsburgh’s offense put up 33 points on the defending AFC champion Broncos, 34 on the Oilers and then 35 on the Cowboys’ “Doomsday” defense in Super Bowl XIII. Receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth each recorded 100-yard receiving days against the Cowboys, while Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris gave the Steelers a double-digit lead on a 22-yard scoring run. 

While a little older, Pittsburgh’s “Steel Curtain” defense was still playing at an all-time level in 1978. Led by two-time DPOY Joe Greene, Blount, L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, and Donnie Shell, the Steelers’ defense allowed a league-low 12.2 points per game during the regular season. They allowed just 15 points in Pittsburgh’s first two playoff games before holding the Cowboys’ high-octane offense to just 17 points for the first 57 minutes of Super Bowl XIII. The ’78 Steelers boasted a star-studded roster, a Hall of Fame front office, and a collection of players who won a record four Super Bowls in a six-year span. 

1. 1972 Miami Dolphins 

  • 17-0 overall record (including playoffs)
  • Featured the league’s top-ranked offense and defense 
  • Shut out Washington’s offense in Super Bowl VII 

Nearly 50 years later, the ’72 Dolphins remain the NFL’s only perfect team. They featured a dominant “No Name” defense (led by Nick Buoniconti, Manny Fernandez and Super Bowl MVP Jake Scott) that allowed 17 points or less 14 times. Miami’s offense boasted the first pair of teammates to each run for over 1,000 yards in a season in Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris. When the Dolphins did throw, Miami fans were treated to the balletic play of Hall of Fame receiver Paul Warfield. 

Hungry to avenge their 24-3 loss to the Cowboys in Super Bowl VI, Don Shula’s team did not lose a single game en route to defeating the Browns and Steelers (on the road, no less) in the playoffs before out-playing Washington in Super Bowl VII. Miami would have recorded the only shutout in Super Bowl history if not for one of the most iconic blunders in NFL history. 

The Dolphins can continue to take pride in being the NFL’s only unblemished team, but the fact that they faced just one team (an 8-6 Chiefs team) that finished with a winning record during the regular-season left them one spot off the top of this list. 

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